by Jane St Clair
Author of Walk Me to Midnight
Tucson, January 8, 2011. Our Safeway grocery store is in a complex of nice little shops behind a big, now empty Blockbuster. In the past few years the complex has gotten more upscale — and a lot of old-timers think it’s now too rich for their blood. Safeway itself got remodeled a few years ago and now has a fancy coffee shop, gourmet cheeses and a wine section.
On a typical Saturday morning, the complex is crowded with shoppers. There is a really cool bakery where you can get fresh coffee and a Danish and sit outdoors, but only the snowbirds from Michigan think it’s warm enough at 55 degrees to do that. Locals are all bundled up in winter coats, as they go in and out of Safeway, pick up dry cleaning, hit the hardware store, and buy fresh flowers in the same complex there.
At 10 o’clock this morning, Gabrielle Giffords, our representative in Congress was holding a hand-shaking session at Safeway. Lately, not a lot of people come to these things, although a few thousand showed up at her debate at the University of Arizona last fall and a few of her town hall meetings were packed when everyone was concerned about health care legislation.
At 10 o’clock this morning, the unspeakable happened. A gunman shot Gabrielle Giffords in the head, along with 17 other people. Five, including our representative, are in critical condition at University Medical Center. Six are dead — one was a talented federal judge; one was just a little girl.
Our representative, Gabrielle Giffords, always seems like one of those lucky princesses that the fairies bless at birth with beauty, brains, and wealth. Her family owned a chain of tire stores here in Tucson, and she was brought up with many advantages. At age 32, she was the youngest person elected to the Arizona state legislature, and then became one of the youngest members of the United States House of Representatives. Beautiful, poised, ladylike and articulate, she does our district proud. It is impossible to believe that this could happen to her. It is impossible to believe it could happen at our grocery store.
We are shocked, stunned, and heart-broken by this violence in our neighborhood. It is unthinkable and impossible that such a thing happens on an ordinary Saturday morning behind a backdrop of impossibly beautiful pink and purple mountains and turquoise sky.
Already extremists on both sides of the political spectrum are blaming and accusing one another, forgetting that peace begins within each of us. If you want peace and a less violent world, start by quieting your own heart. Start by praying for Gabrielle Giffords and her family, and the 17 victims and their families, and for the mentally ill boy who did this terrible crime.